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Lakers celebration turns rowdy; police disperse crowd from Staples Center [Updated]

June 14, 2009 |  9:21 pm

Hundreds of boisterous fans converged on the Staples Center after the Lakers' victory, prompting the Los Angeles Police Department to call a tactical alert and send more officers to the area.

LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz said the department ordered the crowd to disperse just before 9 p.m. after several incidents in which the crowd attempted to start bonfires, set off fireworks and tear down signs and tree branches.

A few people attempted to jump onto police cars, but officers pushed them away.

Diaz said that there has been some rowdy behavior but that the crowd is peaceful and he hopes they can be moved out without major incident. In 2000, the Lakers' championship victory sparked a melee in the same area.

There are currently three major celebrations: In addition to Staples, there are smaller celebrations going on in the Crenshaw District and East L.A. Sheriff's deputies were out in force in East Los Angeles, where some fans got out of hand after a Lakers victory last week. 

Celebrants were on the streets cheering and setting off some fireworks, but deputies reported no major problems. The Crenshaw celebration was also peaceful, according to the LAPD.

[Updated at 9:30 p.m.: Much of the crowd has left the Staples Center area, but the LAPD was still dealing with trouble spots.

On 12th Street, LAPD motorcycle officers moved in after fans began rocking cars and throwing traffic flares. Other groups of people were blocking entrances to the 110 Freeway and running onto the onramps. There were no reports of major injuries or damage.]

[Updated at 9:40 p.m. Diaz said there were two arrests but no reported injuries to police or civilians.]

[Updated at 10:04 p.m. The LAPD continued to deal with unruly behavior from crowds around Staples Center. A group of people vandalized an MTA bus and continued to set small fires. A group of fans walked up the onramp of the 110 Freeway. The LAPD said four people have been arrested.]

[Updated at 10:20 p.m. The crowd around Staples Center was lessening, but there continued to be reports of problems. A window was broken at a shoe store near the center, and crowds ran through a gas station mini-mart. LAPD officials reported people tagging signs and walls.The situation was worsened as Laker fans in cars poured into the South Park area, some waving Laker flags and cheering. The LAPD was attempting to post officers at various intersections to restore calm.]

As the buzzer rang on the Lakers' 99-86 victory over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals, revelers spilled from the ESPN Zone restaurant out onto Chick Hearn Court in front of Staples Center.

Some climbed the statues of Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Oscar De La Hoya, whooping and holding Kobe Bryant jerseys aloft.

"I'm so excited, excited, excited," said a red-faced Louis Merida, a 21-year old UC Riverside student. "I don't even know what to say! I don't even know what to say!" 

"It feels great," Merida said. "No one can hate on Kobe anymore, because he's won a championship without Shaq."

Nearby, LAPD Police Chief William J. Bratton was surrounded by fans who jumped up and down and shook his hand, shouting: "Chief of police, chief of police!"

-- Ari B. Bloomekatz at Staples Center and Andrew Blankstein

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